#10 Risking Failure

Students learn better when they are willing to take risks because they know how to learn from their failures.

  • Self-theories impact learners thoughts, feelings, and behaviors[1]
    1. Entity theory- Belief that intelligence is fixed and unchangeable
    2. Incremental theory- Belief that intelligence can be shaped and improved with effort
  • Students who hold an “entity” self-theory or performance-orientation:[2]
    1. Fear failure- they perceive failure as lack of intelligence versus lack of effort
    2. May perform lower on test due to anxiety
    3. Avoid challenging tasks due to fear of failure
    4. Focus on opportunities to prove one’s ability
    5. Avoid risking failure or challenging tasks for fear of exposing weakness
    6. Take on incredibly challenging tasks so the difficulty of the task can be blamed for failure
    7. Crumble in the face of adversity
    8. Cheat [3]
  • Students who hold an “incremental” self-theory or a mastery-orientation:
    1. Welcome or seek out difficult challenges
    2. See mistakes as learning opportunities
    3. View failure as lack of effort or an insufficient strategy, not as an indication of lack of intelligence
    4. Focus on opportunities to learn
    5. Seek out opportunities to risk failure as a tool for growth
    6. Willingly face adversity with persistence
  • How to help students risk failure:
    1. Provide feedback that attributes failure to controllable challenges as opposed to one’s fixed ability[4]
    2. Teach and practice the view that intelligence is malleable
    3. Provide opportunities for students to engaged in self-affirmation activities to combat the effects of self-image threat[5]
    4. Provide students opportunities to choose how they will best meet a learning goal along with a variety of opportunities to practice meeting that learning goal [6]
  • The Talent Myth[7]
    1. This interesting article The Talent Myth in The New Yorker provides insight into the ultimately detrimental impact the “Talent Myth” or complete reliance and focus on “top talent” or “top performers” can have on a company

[1] Carol Dweck. Self-Theories.

[2] Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Pres, 2014).

[3] Lang, J. M. (2013). Cheating Lessons. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013).

[4] Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marcha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norman. How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010).79.

[5] Claude M. Steele. Whistling Vivaldi(New York: W. W. Norton Company, 2010). 172-177

[6] Lang. Cheating Lessons. 68

[7] Malcolm Gladwell. The Talent Myth: Are Smart People Overrated? The New Yorker (2002).